‘You could write a book.’
It was the Leeds Festival in August 2006 and I was, not to put too fine a point on it, fucked. I was two weeks into my first absence from work due to depression, an absence that would eventually last 5 mind-numbing, often agonising, seemingly interminable months.
The Leeds Festival was an annual pilgrimage that I made with my best friend, Woody, and my brother Dan. It was on this particular day that my best friend first encountered a Matty that he would never have imagined. What he saw shocked him, unrecognisable as I was from his best friend of 29 years. In the pouring rain we talked, and he told me that he had no doubt that I would beat this, that I would be better than ever and that I could do anything that I wanted to.
‘You could write a book.’
I remember feeling shocked that he had said that; what had he seen in me that made him believe that I could write a book? I had always been an avid reader – even more so since Woody had encouraged me to learn how to speed read – and the idea of writing and publishing a book had always been something that I would have loved to do.
But it was also something that I’d never thought I would be capable of doing. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what I would know enough about to write a whole book, and that’s without even considering whether I actually had any writing ability to speak of. What had I ever written that would suggest I could write a book? What was he talking about?
Fast forward to July 2017, 11 years on, and much has happened since that day.
‘You should write a book.’
At the leaving do of a dear colleague, a former workmate and I were talking about blogging and writing. I considered her suggestion. ‘You should write a book.’
You know what, why not?
When I look back – and I have a very good, ‘technicolour’ long-term memory – I can see that I was often credited with having decent writing skills. A very early memory from primary school involves sitting, cross legged in the school hall (my lack of flexibility was obvious even at that early, supposedly pliable age, and I was uncomfortable as hell!) when the teacher said she wanted to read a story from one of the pupils. As I heard her begin the story of a child discovering a secret world underwater I realised with complete surprise that it was mine.
Later, a poem that I wrote when we were learning about ‘stranger danger’ was displayed outside of the head teacher’s office and I would often get comments from teachers in my exercise books saying that I wrote well. As I got older and progressed through secondary school this continued and I would always get high marks in English.
My ability to write even provided me with a redemption of sorts, easing a guilty conscience and feelings of being a fraud after receiving a coveted ‘Headmaster’s Merit’ for a piece of work that I hadn’t actually done. After agreeing to do a joint ‘castle’ project with one of my oldest friends for history class he decided that actually he would do it on his own and not bother to tell me until the day before the project was due to be handed in. Yeah, cheers pal. To be fair it was an excellent piece of work and the Headmaster’s Merit was very well deserved. Just not by me (in all honesty I don’t think he deserved it either, I reckon his mam made it). My redemption came in my final year at school thanks to a piece of GCSE English project work, earning me my own Headmaster’s Merit and erasing the ugly stain from my conscience.
I won’t bore you by banging on about it but looking back now I guess I’ve always had an ability to express myself in writing in a way that engages people. But I never considered myself talented, I certainly never imagined that I had a book in me. And even though my ability to write was recognised in my professional life by being asked to work on a number of text resource projects, I never felt any sort of creative spark within me; my writing was purely functional and I never felt any compulsion to write to express anything that was within me.
Of course, something changed. In December 2015, seemingly from out of nowhere, my blog was born and this brings me back to my former workmate and her encouragement to write and publish a book. Something changed. Something clicked inside of me.
‘You know what, I’m going to do that.’
And so I am. I have spent the last week collating pieces of writing from Love, Laughter & Truth into a book that I will be self-publishing via amazon kindle, aptly titled ‘Something Changed’. I have no idea what to expect from this next stage in my writing life and will no doubt learn as I go along. I have no clue how many people will care to read it but really that’s not the point. The point is that I will have done it, I will have done something that I never believed to be possible. What’s more, it will be a direct consequence of some of the worst experiences of my life and none of it was planned, rather it grew from following my heart and my instincts and a desire to make something worthwhile out of my trials. That means a lot to me.I wrote a few months ago that I was at a crossroads in my life, that I knew it, sensed it, and that I was going to make something out of it (https://lovelaughtertruthblog.com/2017/06/06/standing-at-a-crossroads/), Well, here I am, about to publish my first book. And whatever happens in my life, regardless of whether anybody reads it or not, nothing and nobody will be able to take that away from me.
I would like to thank each and every one of you that has taken the time to read my posts and to encourage me along my writing journey – none of this could have happened without you.
And Woody – you were right, I could write a book. I’ve even got an idea for a second one.
Matthew’s debut book, Something Changed: Stumbling Through Divorce, Dating & Depression, is available now Click here for info
You’ve Got What It Takes – Bernard Butler